Posted on

Come On Down

Come On Down
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
Come On Down
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

M y mother, my sister, and I watched the show every day during the summers. The three of us would work outside for a couple of hours, then break for lunch ten minutes before “The Price is Right” came on. We’d cut large slabs of watermelon and set the slices on metal TV trays. We’d balance the trays on our laps as we sat on the sofa and watched.

Johnny Olson was the announcer in the 1970s. It was his energetic voice we heard first as he called the names of spectators and urged them to, “Come on down!” The contestants sprinted toward the stage with their hands in the air in what is best described as pure, unadulterated joy. Then Olson would introduce the host, “Bob Barker,” and Bob would march through an opening in the stage and get the show moving.

I loved the excitement. I loved playing along. I loved the beautiful models that waved their arms with graceful flourishes near washers, dryers and living room furniture. Most of all, I loved Bob Barker.

He died last week at 99 years old, and the news made me sad, as if I had learned that a distant family member had passed.

Through the years, had my sister and I been on the stage, we would have won dozens of cars, hundreds of boats, a herd of motorcycles, and numerous vacations to faraway countries with names like Bora Bora, Montenegro, and Cancún. We’d grab our family’s big blue globe, spin it around and try to find the exotic destinations on the Earth model. It was like a summertime geography class.

“The Price is Right” made us think. Take the Showcases at the end of the show, for example. To be competitive, you not only had to have an idea of how much things cost, but also, you had to add them up in your head, and bid the closest to the actual price, without going over.

Bob was always kind to the contestants, and he’d ask them a little about themselves. He always wore a snazzy suit, and he had a bright, million-dollar smile. He guided contestants through a whirlwind of price tags, games, prizes and spinning wheels.

But Bob was more than just a game show host. He was a tireless advocate for animal rights. His passion for our furry and feathered friends was no secret. He refused to allow fur coats as prizes on the show, and sometime during his tenure, he began closing “The Price is Right” with a familiar and meaningful signoff: “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population — have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Bob Barker showed us that compassion extends beyond the human realm, making sure animals had a voice even when his microphone was turned off. He was also one of the first celebrities to adopt a vegetarian diet due to his immense love of animals, and he started his own foundation to provide grants for free or low-cost spay and neuter clinics and other animal causes.

In more recent years, my hus- continued from page

band and I thought of him fondly as we watched an Animal Planet show called, “Whale Wars,” chronicling the mission of Sea Shepherds, as they tried to prevent endangered whales from being slaughtered by the Japanese. One of the anti-whaling vessels on the show was the “Bob Barker,” named for the celebrity host with the big, animal-loving heart. Barker had donated millions to the mission, and as a thank you, Sea Shepherds named their ship after him. They retired the ship last year.

And Bob had a sense of humor. My husband and I always chuckle when we see the scene in the movie, “Happy Gilmore,” when Bob Barker delivers a brutal beatdown to hockey- player- turnedgolfer Happy Gilmore during a tournament. Adam Sandler, who played Happy Gilmore in the 1997 movie, posted on his social media account, “The man. The myth. The best … Loved him kicking the crap out of me.”

After his death, as the world began celebrating Bob’s life and achievements, I learned that he was part Lakota and had spent his childhood living and going to school on an Indian reservation (the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota). A fan posted, “Please join me in wishing him a blessed journey to the land of souls.”

So with me, please raise your glass to Bob Barker, the man who taught us that life is all about dressing well, showing up with a smile, a little friendly competition and getting things right — whether it’s the price of a new car or a worthy cause. May he rest peacefully in the afterlife amid a thousand loving puppies and kittens, and may we all remember his life and be better humans from his example.

Recent Death Notices